Wednesday, April 01, 2020

My 100 Favorite Movies, 2020 Edition

If I do this, will I be the last living blogger?

Anyway, I mainly used this blog to keep track of lists. Here's an updated list of my favorite movies, ranked 1 to 100 (101, actually) in a swift and poorly-considered way.

1. The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
2. The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)
3. Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959)
4. Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)
5. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)
6. Playtime (Tati, 1967)
7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
8. Singin' In The Rain (Donen, 1952)
9. La Jetee (Marker, 1962)
10. Badlands (Malick, 1973)
11. Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)
12. Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)
13. Ride The High Country (Peckinpah, 1962)
14. Pather Panchali (Ray, 1955)
15. No Country For Old Men (Coen, 2007)
16. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
17. The Rules of the Game (Renoir, 1939)
18. Ikiru (Kurosawa, 1952)
19. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Weir, 2003)
20. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)
21. Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Anderson, 2003)
22. The Grand Budapest Hotel (W Anderson, 2014)
23. The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
24. Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2002)
25. Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995)
26. The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)
27. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
28. The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959)
29. True Grit (Coens, 2010)
30. The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946)
31. The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941)
32. Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)
33. Inherent Vice (PT Anderson, 2014)
34. Cleo From 5 To 7 (Varda, 1962)
35. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (Raimi, 1987)
36. Young Frankenstein (Brooks, 1974)
37. Paris, Texas (Wenders, 1984)
38. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Renoir, 1932)
39. Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)
40. Band of Outsiders (Godard, 1964)
41. Sullivan's Travels (Sturges, 1942)
42. The Wages of Fear (Clouzot, 1953)
43. Boyhood (Linklater, 2014)
44. F For Fake (Welles, 1976)
45. Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)
46. M (Lang, 1931)
47. The Grand Illusion (Renoir, 1938)
48. Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971)
49. L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934)
50. Bob Le Flambeur (Melville, 1955)
51. Duck Soup (McCarey, 1933)
52. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang, 1933)
53. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)
54. Parasite (Joon-ho, 2019)
55. The Iron Giant (Bird, 1999)
56. Week End (Godard, 1967)
57. Out Of The Past (Tourneur, 1947)
58. Mon Oncle (Tati, 1958)
59. Diabolique (Clouzot, 1954)
60. There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
61. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong, 2010)
62. I'm Not There (Haynes, 2007)
63. Ghost World (Zwigoff, 2001)
64. Gerry (Van Sant, 2002)
65. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
66. Stagecoach (Ford, 1939)
67. Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (Peckinpah, 1974)
68. Always For Pleasure (Blank, 1995)
69. The General (Keaton, 1927)
70. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
71. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
72. Toni Erdmann (Ade, 2016)
73. Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)
74. Meek's Cutoff (Reichardt, 2010)
75. Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977)
76. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy, 1964)
77. Persona (Bergman, 1966)
78. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
79. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Ford, 1962)
80. The Thin Blue Line (Morris, 1988)
81. Human Resources (Cantet, 1999)
82. Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015)
83. Topsy-Turvy (Leigh, 1999)
84. High and Low (Kurosawa, 1963)
85. The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1965)
86. La Ronde (Ophuls, 1950)
87. The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974)
88. A Man Escaped (Bresson, 1957)
89. Little Dieter Needs To Fly (Herzog, 1997)
90. The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)
91. Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
92. Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1972)
93. Gun Crazy (Lewis, 1950)
94. Cockfighter (Hellman, 1974)
95. Harlan County, USA (Kopple, 1976)
96. Nosferatu (Murnau, 1929)
97. Paterson (Jarmusch, 2016)
98. My Dinner With Andre (Malle, 1981)
99. L'Avventura (Antonioni, 1960)
100. Scarface (Hawks, 1932)
101. A Christmas Tale (Desplechin, 2008)

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Wes Anderson

I watched Moonrise Kingdom and The Fantastic Mr. Fox with my kids in the fall, which spurred me to revisit all of Wes Anderson's movies. I am a big fan, but I'm not sure that I love all of his movies the same way. Both The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited left me cold when I saw them in the theater. But his recent run of films won me back over. Anyway, revisiting his movies left me with a few thoughts, but listicles being what they are, let me also rank his films while I am at it.

1. Moonrise Kingdom: Bringing all of Anderson's obsessions to bear in a perfect package of nostalgia, regret, and danger, Moonrise Kingdom's greatness comes from taking the emotional life of its protagonists very seriously, even as it admits that there is a lot of absurdity here. The beating heart of the movie is the love between the kids at the center of the story, but it's also in the way that the adults around them, especially Bruce Willis's policeman and Edward Norton's scoutmaster, come to realize how all of the institutions and authority figures around them have failed them. This movie is, in short, a masterpiece.

1. The Fantastic Mr. Fox: Instead of pretending to be a lost children's classic like so many of Anderson's other films, Mr. Fox is actually an adaptation of a children's classic. Anderson pours his visual style into it, and it captures the main theme running through all of his movies: the refusal of exceptional people to be mediocre. Sure, Mr. Fox's bid for greatness endangers his family and puts his entire community at risk, but he also rages against the dying of the light better than just about any other middle-aged protagonists in a story for children. The movie is, in short, a masterpiece.

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel: The apex of Anderson's craft and a tour-de-force racing through Anderson's pet obsessions: impeccable visual style, the imposition of history into literature, the self-styled great man raging against the tides of both institutional indifference and mediocrity, intergenerational friendships, the delicate and precise art of creating an experience, all with deep wells of love and loss. The movie is breathless throughout, but bursting with life, even with a cast this large. Every character has clear motivations, and Anderson's bench is deep enough that dozens of his stable of talented A-list actors make what are essentially walk-on performances, each imbued with enough material that they tell little micro-stories. The movie is, in short, a masterpiece.

1. Rushmore:  Right out of the gate, Anderson's second film introduces Anderson's primary theme of the great person struggling against authority and mediocrity. While Max Fischer may not be quite as amazing as he thinks he is, his creative talent is a delight and the fun of his character struggling to be taken seriously because of his age and inexperience (shades of Moonrise Kingdom) meets up with his deadly-serious emotions. The movie is, in short, a masterpiece. (OK, I'm going to stop this now, but a post about Wes Anderson calls for a little self-indulgence.)

2. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou: I really disliked this movie when it was released but now I think it is a only a second-tier Anderson film by a thin hair. Zissou is much like Mr. Fox but without the happy ending. The only thing keeping this film from being another number 1, really, is that it doesn't breathe life into the supporting cast the way that the above films do. However, there's some genuine pathos and danger in Zissou's reckless mid-life crisis, and the weird beauty of this film is both wholly an Anderson-style composition and yet unlike any other Anderson film. Additionally, contrary to his usual adoration of his iconoclast heroes, Anderson is aware of how irresponsible Zissou is and how this leads to the deaths of his best friend and his maybe-son. It's hard to call a film mature that explicitly idealizes the mind of an 11-and-a-half year old, but if any Anderson film can be called an examination of maturity and loss, it is this one.

3. The Darjeeling Limited and Hotel Chevalier: This movie, a distant third, wants to be an examination of maturity and loss, but it just doesn't work. Anderson is trying his damnedest to honor Satyajit Ray, but the movie lacks Ray's appreciation of sheer ordinariness. It comes across as mildly racist exotica, as the wealthy white explorers try to find themselves amid the backdrop of India's strange foreign ways. The character beats (the oldest brother's suicide attempt, the middle brother's fear of paternity, the youngest brother's recent break-up) seem more like tics than anything lived in or experienced. When the brothers finally literally let go of their father's baggage, it does not feel like an earned moment. That's my problem with the film - the central conceit just doesn't work for me. The movie is beautiful, though. The scene where the brothers rescue the kids from drowning is also among Anderson's best. The short released along with this film, Hotel Chevalier, was significantly better, with Schwartzman and Natalie Portman playing recognizable people with a difficult past and no idea about the future.

4. Bottle Rocket: I may have this one too low. I mean, I like it and it mostly works. But it also feels like a debut movie and the effort to make it shows. The quirky parts are too quirky, the composition style is not yet there, and the plot mechanics are a little too obvious.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums: I did not think that this movie would be so low on my list before I re-watched it. When it came out, I was blown away. I think of it as a gauntlet that Anderson threw down, an epic of composition and characterization built on classics of young adult or children's literature and a marriage of soundtrack and image that redefines the use of non-diegetic movie music (well, to be fair, Anderson had already hit those notes with Rushmore). And it is those things, but it is ultimately emptier than Anderson's subsequent revisiting of those same themes. The characters come across as jerks, not because of their losses and failures, as the movie would ask you to see them, but because they are just written as basically selfish jerks. When Nico's "These Days" erupts in the film, I was in tears during my original viewing in 2001, but in 2017 it seemed like a shortcut establishing a mood that has not quite been earned. Maybe I'll eventually come back around to seeing it as a masterpiece, but right now, it seems like the least of Anderson's work.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Best of 2016

Started this post over a month ago! 2016 sucked for everybody for so many reasons, but I can't complain about my life right now. I'm gainfully employed and playing in a good band, my family is happy, and I own not one, but two decent pairs of headphones. So the macro sucks, but the micro is doing ok. Anyway, here's the thing that everyone's been waiting for: what a middle-aged rock enthusiast from Cary, NC liked to listen to in 2016!

The Best (aka My Favorite) Albums of 2016:

1. Wussy - Forever Sounds

2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

3. David Bowie - Blackstar

4. The Mekons - Existentialism

5. Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits

6. Angel Olsen - My Woman

7. Wilco - Schmilco

8. Dinosaur Jr. - Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

9. Lambchop - FLOTUS

10. Ty Segall and The Muggers - Emotional Mugger

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically):
  • William Bell - This Is Where I Live
  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
  • Deerhoof - The Magic
  • Dex Romweber - Carrboro
  • The Drive-By Truckers - American Band
  • Alejandro Escovedo - Burn Something Beautiful
  • Freakwater - Scheherazade
  • Eleanor Friedberger - New View
  • Robbie Fulks - Upland Stories
  • PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
  • The I Don't Cares - Wild Stab
  • Bob Mould - Patch The Sky
  • Robert Pollard - Of Course You Are
  • San Saba County - 5th
  • Teenage Fanclub - Here
  • The Thermals - We Disappear
  • The Waco Brothers - Going Down In History
  • Thee Oh Sees - An Odd Entrances
  • Tortoise - The Catastrophist

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Of 2011! And 2006! Again!

At the end of each year, I have made increasingly sporadic attempts to log my favorite pop culture (usually music) of that year. I have also attempted to engage my prior lists, mostly as a way of gauging how things have changed and new things that I discovered after the fact. Here is my entry from 2011. God, what a depressing year that was for me.

Anyway, I have been thinking and listening to 2011 albums over the last couple of weeks, so I am ready to revise my list.

Original 2011 Albums:

1. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
2. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
3. Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania
4. The Alabama Shakes - Alabama Shakes EP
5. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
6. Earth - Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light
7. Mastodon - The Hunter
8. Mike Watt - Hyphenated-Man
9. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
10. Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically):

Boris - Attention PleaseHeavy Rocks (2011), and New Album
Sally Crewe - Transmit/Receive EP
Deerhoof - Deerhoof Vs. Evil
The Fall - Ersatz GB
The Feelies - Here Before
Jens Lekman - An Argument With Myself
J. Mascis - Several Shades Of Why
Melvins - Sugar Daddy Live
My Education - Sound Mass
Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler/The Dream
Wilco - The Whole Love
Wild Flag - Wild Flag
Yuck - Yuck
Revised 2011 Albums:

1. Wussy – Strawberry
2. Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania
3. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
4. Eleventh Dream Day – Riot Now
5. The Dirtbombs – Party Store
6. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
7. Wooden Shjips – West
8. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
9. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
10. Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler/The Dream

Honorable Mentions:

The Bats – Free All The Monsters
Boris - Attention Please and Heavy Rocks (2011)
Richard Buckner – Our Blood
Sally Crewe - Transmit/Receive EP
Earth - Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light
Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer
The Feelies - Here Before
Robyn Hitchcock – Tromsø, Kaptein
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Soul Time!
Lydia Loveless – Indestructible Machine
Nick Lowe – The Old Magic
Mastodon - The Hunter
Reigning Sound – Abdication, For Your Love
Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Wilco - The Whole Love
Wild Flag - Wild Flag
Mike Watt - Hyphenated-Man

What is new: Wussy's Strawberry, which is my favorite album by them, was completely off my radar five years ago. I had not heard the albums by Eleventh Dream Day, Dirtbombs, Wooden Shjips, or Radiohead by the end of the year. The second Thee Oh Sees album that I moved up has been pretty regular on my stereo in the last five years. Probably should move it higher. Added albums by The Bats, Richard Buckner, Eleanor Friedberger (this one was the one I was most on the fence about moving into the top ten), Robyn Hitchcock, Sharon Jones, Lydia Loveless, Nick Lowe, and Reigning Sound (second runner up). The Tom Waits is a great album, but not one that I've been often tempted to revisit.

What fell off: The Alabama Shakes, whose shtick burnt out for me quickly, Kurt Vile's Smoke Rings For My Halo, which I haven't listened to since early 2012, Boris's New Album, my least favorite of the three, and Deerhoof vs. Evil and the Fall's Ersatz GB, both of which now seem like lesser works of great artists. The albums by Jens Lekman, Mascis, the Melvins, My Education, and Yuck also didn't move me as much when I revisited them.

My changes for 2006 are less extreme. I mean, there's some movements, some new albums I like, but for the most part, the rankings from five years ago still reflect my listening habits.

Original 2006 Rankings:

1.       Joanna Newsom, Ys.
2.       Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
3.       Mastodon, Blood Mountain
4.       Cat Power, The Greatest
5.       The Decemberists, The Crane Wife
6.       The Fiery Furnaces, Bitter Tea
7.       Mission of Burma, The Obliterati
8.       Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit
9.       Isis & Aereogramme, In the Fishtank 14
10.    Boris, Pink (came out in 2005, but had wide release in 2006)
11.    The Pipettes, We Are the Pipettes
12.    Bert Jansch, The Black Swan
13.    Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies
14.    Ratatat, Classics
15.    M. Ward, Post-War
16.    Brightblack Morning Light, Brightblack Morning Light
17.    Six Organs of Admittance, Sun Awakens
18.    The Hold Steady, Boys & Girls in America
19.    Akron/Family, Meek Warrior
20.    Scott Walker, The Drift
Revised 2006 Rankings (2011):

1.     Boris - Pink
2.     Fucked Up - Hidden World
3.     Comets On Fire - Avatar
4.     Mastodon - Blood Mountain
5.     Espers - Espers II
6.     Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
7.     Danielson - Ships
8.     Scott Walker - The Drift
9.     Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
10.  TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

Honorable Mentions:

·       Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
·       Bob Dylan - Modern Times
·       Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
·       Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
·       The Hold Steady - Boys & Girls In America
·       Isis - In The Absence Of Truth
·       Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
·       Nina Nastasia - On Leaving
·       Joanna Newsom - Ys.
·       Jay Reatard - Blood Visions
Revised 2006 Rankings (2016):

1.     Boris - Pink
2.     Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
3.     Comets On Fire - Avatar
4.     Espers - Espers II
5.     Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
6.     Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
7.     Fucked Up - Hidden World
8.     Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope
9.     Scott Walker - The Drift
10.  Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped

Honorable Mentions:

·     Akron/Family – Meek Warrior
·     Bonnie “Prince” Billy – The Letting Go
·     Richard Buckner – Meadow
·     Danielson - Ships
·     Bob Dylan - Modern Times
·     Eleventh Dream Day – Zeroes And Ones
·     The Ettes – Shake The Dust
·     Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
·     The Handsome Family – Last Days Of Wonder
·     Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 - Olé! Tarantula
·     Isis - In The Absence Of Truth
·     Mastodon - Blood Mountain
·     Melvins – (A) Senile Animal
·     Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
·     Nina Nastasia - On Leaving
·     Joanna Newsom - Ys.
·     Om – Conference Of The Birds
·     Jay Reatard - Blood Visions
·     Tortoise and Bonnie “Prince” Billy – The Brave And The Bold
·     TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain

I was not tempted to re-add anything that fell off between 2006 and 2011. I'm pretty happy with everything I added, too. The lesson is that five years out is enough time to have a pretty solid take on a year, with a few adjustments based on albums that I haven't heard or fully appreciated.

Next: the 2016 list, which I am sure to find quite wrongheaded in 2021!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Yes, I Am Alive, Thank You

So it has been a while since I've had much energy for this blog. Figured it's been about a year, so I should write an update that I continue to listen to music, old and new. I play in a band called Rapture Clause, which is fun. Build guitar pedals when I have time. Just finished a Tube Screamer clone and am almost done with three Klon Centaurs. Currently listening as of this moment: Guy Clark - Cold Dog Soup.  Don't much feel like writing anymore, not just as a statement on the brevity of this blog post, but as an existential situation of how my life has changed. I don't read much these days, either, which is a shame. Just finished The Collected Stories of Bryce D'J Pancake, which was excellent and moving. I can think of a number of writers who are similar (Madison Smartt Bell leaps to mind), but I think Pancake's fiction came first. I have a large stack of books vying to be next. Maybe I'll drop back by before the year is out to update this again.

I do want to mention this series at the AV Club, which already, in its third installment, seems as bereft of ideas as I was at my nadir of my eight-year-long quest to listen to my entire music collection. There's no real wrestling with the music in this series, just a kind of perfunctory acceptance or rejection and reportage of same. My project was based on Noel Murray's similar run through his music collection in 2008, but Noel gave it an effort to listen and then decide. I also thought I should spend some time with each album before rating it or just deleting it, and I didn't even think much about the physical object of the CD or the record, but instead about the digital music. Modell's goal is different, but his decision-making process appears to be more reactionary than any sort of real consideration. The whole process is just a confirmation of his most conservative aesthetic tendencies, which is a conversation that would be deathly dull with even my most interesting friends, and Modell's tastes - which, to be clear, I often share - just aren't that interesting. Who knew that 40-something rock critic types love Belle & Sebastian and Bedhead? I mean, besides everyone.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

For Fans of Peter Laughner

I received an email from Don Harvey this morning with some links that you may very much enjoy. Per Dr. Harvey's instructions, download and disseminate widely and be sure to throw shame on anyone trying to charge for these.

Peter Laughner’s high school band, Mr. Charlie, was a real fun bunch of guys, and ahead of their time in many ways. Here’s a link to some high quality stereo recordings of five songs Mr. Charlie performed at Bayway, in Bay Village, Ohio, in August, 1969. Includes “Waiting for the Man” and “Ferryboat Bill”, and more. Feel free to download these files and enjoy. But please, don’t resell these in any form. More on Mr. Charlie can be found by googling “Those were different times” by Charlotte Pressler.
Part 1: 
Part 2:

The complete Ann Arbor Tapes are available for free download through the following link: It includes previously unreleased recording of "Fire Engine" and "Candy Say", in addition to Story of My Life, Blank Generation, Dead Letter Zone, Amphetamine, and Venus de Milo. Peter Laughner: guitar and vocals, Don Harvey: reed organ, bass and backup vocals on Candy Says. Enjoy, and spread the word to anyone you think would like them, just please don't sell them.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Music Library FINAL Catch-Up: Ts, Vs, Ws, and Ys

Teenage Fanclub - The King (1991). Uncharacteristically heavy-rockin' album from the indie pop maestros that was deleted on the same day it was released. It's actually really good, although it doesn't sound like Teenage Fanclub at all.

Thee Oh Sees - Dog Poison (2009), Singles Collection Vol. 1+2 (2008-11), Moon Sick EP (2013), Singles Collection Vol. 3 (2013), Drop (2014). These guys are so damn good. The last two of these are among the finest things they've done.

They Might Be Giants - Flood (1990) and Here Come The ABCs (2006). My wife and kids love TMBGs much more than I do.

Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak (1976) and Bad Reputation (1977). There's a certain critical consensus about the greatness of this band and these albums that led to me picking them up, but, y'know, while I like this music just fine, it's not a revelation to my ears or anything.

Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights (Rhino Homemade Edition) (1982). Because I cannot stop buying copies of this album for some odd reason.

Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979). I'm have more interest in hearing the roots of electronica and industrial music than I have in actually listening to it.

Through The Sparks - Invisible Kids (2014). I've talking about how much I like this Birmingham, AL band before, but I think this is the best thing they've done, a slightly psychedelic take on 70s-era Laurel Canyon cocaine-rock.

Throwing Muses - Red Heaven (1992) and University (1995). I enjoyed these albums back in the day, but just recently got around to getting digital copies.

Tindersticks - Tindersticks (1993) and Tindersticks [II] (1995). I wish I had listened to these guys back in the day, but I didn't pick these up until recently. Just lovely chamber-pop that's absolutely besotted with Scott Walker's late-60s albums.

Toots and the Maytals - Toots In Memphis (1988). The reggae master mostly playing Memphis soul music.

Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die (1970), The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971), and Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory (1973). I liked these albums a lot when I was a teenager, so when my friend offered me copies, I said yes. And it was interesting hearing them again, especially in light of some of these musicians' later connection to the late-70s (read: lousy) Can albums. But I was overall kind of bored by them.

Sharon Van Etten - Are We There (2014). This was a great recommendation from a friend. I like this a ton.

Versus - The Stars Are Insane (1994) and Dead Leaves (1995). Versus was such a great band. I only saw them once, opening for Yo La Tengo, but they were on fire. Since some of their albums are out of print, I have a standing policy to pick up any used Versus albums I find.

Dean Wareham - Dean Wareham (2014). While Wareham has been sorta out from behind his bands with all of the Dean & Britta releases, this is the first time he doesn't even have his wife for a crutch, but he still rocks.

Doc Watson - Doc Watson (1964). Love these Doc Watson albums from the 60s.

The White Noise - An Electric Storm (1969). Experimental bands from the 60s may be great and may be terrible and sometimes are both on the same album, as this album proves.

Webb Wilder - Hybrid Vigor (1989) and Doo Dad (1991). Man, I had both of these on vinyl back in the 90s. Wonder what happened to those? Anyway, Wilder is a hoot, as always.

The Wondermints - The Wondermints (1996). These guys became Brian Wilson's backing band on the Pet Sounds and SMiLE reboots, and they sound like Wilson acolytes here.

Wooden Shjips - Back To Land (2013). Typically excellent release from these guys.

Wussy - Wussy (2009) and Attica (2014). Attica was my number one album for last year and Wussy, if I had owned it at the time, would have been my number one album for 2009, because I think it's even better. These guys are so fantastic, and I intend to keep building my collection of their work.

Dwight Yoakam - (2000). Interesting all-acoustic re-recording of Yoakam's best songs. Makes a very strong argument for the strength of the man's work and legacy.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Music Library FINAL Catch-Up: Rs and Ss

Continuing with the brevity in service of finishing this damn project for once and for all.

The Ramones - It's Alive (1979). Somehow playing the songs even faster gives them an extra edge of immediacy. One of the best live albums ever.

The Red Paintings - The Revolution Is Never Coming (2014). Very enjoyable album with the bombast of Titus Andronicus, but like that band, they never cross the line into bombast for its own sake.

Charlie Rich - The Complete Sun Masters (1958-62). The man was a genius from the very beginning.

Terry Riley - Copenhagen 1970 (with Don Cherry), Koln 1975 (with Don Cherry), Shri Camel (1980), and Songs for The Ten Voices Of The Two Prophets (1983). Although none of these are among my favorites of Riley's work, they all are quite interesting and full of surprises.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2 (2014). One of my favorite hip-hop albums of last year.

Doug Sahm/Sir Douglas Quintet - Together After Five (1970). Man, I love Sir Douglas's ability to blend Tejano and conjunto music with 60's garage and soul.

The Seldom Scene - Long Time... Seldom Scene (2013). I had thought this was going to be a career overview, but it's a new recording. Modern-day bluegrass generally sort of bores me with all of its infinitesimal variations on the same formula, but this album was very listenable due to the excellent song choices ("Hickory Wind" in particular) and the easy familiarity of the musicians with each other.

The Sex Clark Five - Strum & Drum (1987). By all rights this should be a stone classic in every music lover's collection. Garage, power pop, Southern jangle, and noise rock all swept up together.

Shudder To Think - Ten Spot (1990), Funeral At The Movies (1991), and Pony Express Record (1994). I had always heard that these guys were interesting, but I never confirmed this until recently.

Silkworm - L'ajre (1992). Those moments when these guys let loose and play some damn dramatic guitar are the best.

Silver Scooter - Orleans Parish (1999). From Austin's underappreciated power-pop underground.

Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (2014). Another favorite from last year. Simpson doesn't completely overhaul the formula, but he tweaks it in fascinating ways.

Sonic Youth - Confusion Is Sex (1983). Replacing a very old, worn-out cassette.

Regina Spektor - Soviet Kitsch (2004). Spektor can do no wrong.

Splitsville - The Complete Pet Soul (2001). There's a few good songs on here, but mostly I thought this was overmannered.

Spoon - They Want My Soul (2014). And another favorite from last year, one of the best Spoon albums in a long while. I may say the same thing with every release, though.

St. Vincent - Actor (2009), Strange Mercy (2011), Krokodil 7" (2012), 4AD Session EP (2012), and St. Vincent (2014). She's an amazing talent, and her increasing rock star status is well-deserved.

Sun Kil Moon - Benji (2014). This is such a weird album, a work of intense mystery. Mark Kozelek may be more confessional here than anyone has ever been, but he achieves it by throwing away line meter and rhyme and delivering the lyrics as if they were emerging fully-formed from his head. Which should be awful, but he somehow makes it work. I listened to this more than any other album last year.

Sun Ra - Other Planes Of There (1964). Another Sun Ra album to drink deeply from.

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From Here To Obscurity, founded ca. 2003, population 1. The management wishes to emphasize that no promises vis-a-vis your entertainment have been guaranteed and for all intents and purposes, intimations of enlightenment fall under the legal definition of entertainment. No refunds shall be given nor will requests be honored. Although some may ask, we have no intention of beginning again.

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